A stunning strike from Philippe Coutinho earned Liverpool a winning start to the 2015/16 Premier League season as they edged Stoke City 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
Stoke City 0 Liverpool 1
Clyne, Benteke, Milner, Gomez, Firmino in Reds debuts
Johnson, Afellay and Van Ginkel debut for Potters
Sides goalless at half-time
Coutinho scores stunning late winner
Neither side were able to find a way through in the opening 45 minutes, with much of the match action taking place in the middle of the park, where the teams seemed to cancel each other out.
The second-half proved equally dour and it would take a moment of brilliance from Coutinho to separate the teams, with the Brazilian turning in midfield before curling home a breathtaking drive via the fingertips of Jack Butland.
Charlie Adam had a decent chance to open the scoring just eight minutes in but completely sliced his effort following a decent delivery from right wing, while Mame Biram Diouf at least managed to test Simon Mignolet a few minutes later but his tame effort was never going to beat the goalkeeper.
Adam looked to again work something on 28 minutes, this time from a free-kick some 35 yards out, but he was unable to find target with a rasping drive, while Jon Walters' attempted flick only resulted in the linesman raising his flag for off-side.
The sides were virtually 50-50 in terms of possession at the break, but Stoke seemed to just edge the chances, with Adam looking the hosts' most likely outlet for a goal, but his driving run and shot from 25 yards ended with Mignolet making another comfortable save.
Liverpool continued to struggle to make any real impact on the game after the break, with Adam Lallana over-hitting his delivery as the ball sailed well over Christian Benteke's head when the striker had been in a good position in the opposition area.
Stoke almost found the breakthrough shortly after the hour mark as Adam swung a really dangerous free-kick right across the face of goal, but Diouf was just unable to make the telling connection after breaking free of his marker.
The match seemed to finally get the boost it needed as Philippe Coutinho burst through the middle of the park at pace before the ball eventually found its way to Benteke in the area, but the striker took too long to get his shot away and the defenders were able to get back and make the block.
The hosts had a golden chance to snatch the points in the final 10 minutes as Glen Johnson did well out wide before feeding the ball to Ibrahim Afellay, who in turn set up Marco Van Ginkel inside the area, but his first-time hit was expertly blocked point-blank by Martin Skrtel.
And, with just six minutes remaining the Reds finally found a way through, Coutinho receiving the ball in a tight spot before turning to create space, running at goal and unleashing a stunning effort which not even the fingertips of Butland could prevent finding the back of the net.